Paul McCartney: Lives Kisses and BBC Electric Proms: Paul McCartney see the former Beatle performing songs, having fun and getting nostalgic. They also show two very different sides of Macca. The former sees him taking a leaf out of his parents’ songbook and doing covers of the easy-listening tunes that featured on his Kisses On The Bottom album. The latter sees Sir Paul at his pop-rock best, delivering some then-new songs and classics from his fabulous career with The Beatles and Wings.
Live Kisses was filmed in 2012 at Los Angeles’ Capitol Studios. The building is an iconic one that has hosted stars like Nat King Cole, John Coltrane and Bing Crosby, to name a few. For this documentary it seems that the biggest inspiration is Mr Crosby, as Paul McCartney croons away and creates an album inspired by his childhood memories of parties where the adults got merrier as the night progressed and where those in charge enjoyed themselves by singing along to pop standards and other classics.
The film is directed by Jonas Åkerlund who has previously produced documentaries about Madonna and made music videos for McCartney, Robbie Williams, The Prodigy and Roxette, to name a few. Here, there are also cameos from Diana Krall, Stevie Wonder and Eric Clapton. For the album and this rehearsal, the musicians included a 20-piece orchestra plus talented jazz musicians, John Pizzarelli (guitars), Karriem Riggins (drums) and John Clayton (bass).
Kisses On The Bottom was ultimately a rather sleepy and self-indulgent effort by McCartney. The former Beatle recorded it primarily for his wife, Nancy Shevell and in order to realise his dream of releasing a record of standards. The film itself does fair a little better though, thanks to its subtle atmosphere and deliberate softness. It really shines new light on old chestnuts, especially the hit, “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive”.
The documentary features 13 live renditions of songs like the Guys & Dolls show tune, “More I Cannot Wish You”; the McCartney original, “My Valentine”; and “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter” (this song contains the lyric that was the inspiration for the cheeky album title). These cuts are interspersed with titles taken from old 45s and are shown alongside muddy-looking black and white interview footage as well as some full colour shots. The result is that McCartney and Co. deliver things with a respectful air even though the former’s voice is very thin and showing visible signs of aging.
These days Paul McCartney’s voice is better suited to his own material and BBC Electric Proms: Paul McCartney is a testament to this. Recorded live in 2007 at the Roundhouse in London’s Camden Town the-then 90 minute set has been edited to one hour for this special. For this concert, McCartney plays numerous instruments including some pleasant mandolin in the-then new track, “Dance Tonight”. “Only Mama Knows” is another recent song to get an airing but it’s fair to say that these numbers are eclipsed by the brilliance, weight and depth of McCartney’s long and enviable discography.
The backing band features two guitarists, a keyboardist and drummer. A string section also joins them for a broody “Eleanor Rigby” and some other numbers. There is the rocking, “Flaming Pie” and the colourful, carnival-like, “Got To Get You Into My Life” while “Band On The Run”, “Live & Let Die” and “Back In The USSR” prove rambunctious and spirited. The Beatle ballads, “Hey Jude” and “Let It Be” see the capacity crowd singing along while the rousing “I Saw Her Standing There” seems as youthful and exuberant as the 17-year old it name checks. During this concert, McCartney shows he can equally shine as band leader and soloist (especially when he plays acoustic guitar while unaccompanied for a haunting, “Blackbird”).
Both Live Kisses and Electric Proms see Paul McCartney in his element and having fun. They also see him getting nostalgic over some wonderful and iconic tunes. While there are some moments that miss the mark in each film, for the most part these documentaries are rather interesting chapters and additions to McCartney’s illustrious career and will prove to be enjoyable viewing for any self-respecting fan.
BBC Electric Proms: Paul McCartney Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Paul McCartney: Lives Kisses Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Paul McCartney: Lives Kisses and BBC Electric Proms: Paul McCartney screened as part of STUDIO Loves: The Beatles on the Foxtel channel STUDIO.